Diversifying

How to Launch a Product Line as an Influencer

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Today, we're gonna talk about how to launch your own product line as a creator or influencer. I'm Justin Moore. Welcome to Creator Wizard, your step-by-step guide to the business of being a creator. In this video, you're gonna learn why launching a product line can be a critical step to diversifying your creator business, common pitfalls to avoid when selecting what to sell, and the best way to approach selling something to your followers.

So today, we're gonna be speaking with Bre Islar, who recently launched the Brand Builder Studio.

Yeah, so first of all, thank you so much for having me on. I really am so excited to chat with you. I am a little bit of a mommy blogger slash I really like, really try to inspire women. My journey started on social media 10 years ago. Actually, I launched my YouTube channel in February of 2010, and over that period of time, my content has changed. It's grown with me throughout the years. So I do a little bit of, like, mommy-blogger content. I share a little bit of my family, and then also I just do a lot of inspirational posts and encourage other women who are interested in the entrepreneurial journey to kickstart their journeys and get started.

That's so fantastic; having been on social media for a long time and seeing the evolution of a lot of the different ways in which you can monetize it as a creator, what, what is, can you talk a little bit about why you decided to go down this journey of launching a product line?

To be honest, when I started YouTubing way back, within the first year of launching, one of the things that I really really was passionate about doing was starting my own makeup line. Believe it or not, it was something that I wanted to do from the very beginning. Because actually, at that time, I was also I was a full-time teacher, and then I was also a freelance makeup artist on the weekends. So two to three weekends out of every month, I was doing different kinds of gigs from bridal to, you know, special events and proms and birthdays and things of that nature. And for me, during that time, I was always asked by my clients back then; it was really about eye shadows. If I had any eyeshadows that, you know, I thought would be really good for them. For them to have on there, you know, in their own tool kits, if you will, and then also lip colors. A lot of my clients wanted customized lipsticks, custom lip colors. And so back then, I would mix colors and put them in little containers and leave it with them for them to touch up their makeup after I finished. And so, over that period of time, I always wanted to launch a makeup line. This was something that I wanted to do from the very beginning. I was inspired by so many other YouTubers in the beauty community who also launched makeup collections and makeup lines. And like I said, over the years, things just kinda happened, and the journey kind of took its fair share of pivots. So I wasn't able to do it as soon as I would have liked to. And then, to be honest, that's the part of why my content is so inspirational is because for a period of time, I kind of thought it was no longer something that I could do. I kind of talked myself out of it. I became a mom, and my daughter, my oldest daughter, was born with special needs. And I just was really focused on mom life and kind of let myself and my dreams go. I kinda let them go, you know, off to the wayside and didn't think it was something that I would be able to do any more until the end of 2019. I really decided to, you know, go back and make a chance to take a chance and go for it

Good for you. That is super inspirational. And I think, I think that resonates with a lot of people, which is like you've got these dreams, but you know, life has other plans, right?

Exactly, exactly.

And, and, you know, you really kind of have to roll with the punches. And so for you to have the fortitude to go back and chase after your dreams, I think, is fantastic. And you know, you're really to be applauded for that. And you know, I think it's a great segue to talk about this thing I hear a lot from creators, which is just that how do I even start, right? Like, like I don't even know how to begin, right? Like, it's one thing to launch maybe like a Teespring store, you know like Merch or something, or a bonfire. You know, one of these stores that do fulfillment for you or slap your logo on it, you know, and that kind of thing. Right, so can you talk a bit about how you even started? Like, you know, well, first of all, why did you decide to kind of double down on beauty products? I mean, you have had this experience in the past. And so were you always like, okay, this is what I'm gonna do, or did you have a broader vision? Like, Oh, I want to do skincare or like or were you ever like, I don't really know what to start with.

Initially, I was, it was always in my heart to do makeup. And then I kind of talked myself out of it and kind of backpedaled out. And I was like, okay, well I'll do skincare. Because after becoming a mom, I wasn't wearing makeup as much anymore. And so I got really good with my skincare. I had a really good regimen. I suggested some really great products to other people. And I was, you know, really thinking that I would go into that route instead. And I think that that's still on the table. To be honest, I do still wanna go that route as well. But I kind of just felt the need to really push myself in the direction of beauty as it pertains to makeup. Because as a black woman, there was not a lot of or actually there weren't any that I can think of black-owned makeup companies when I started YouTube. And so, I wanted to be a face that represented women that looked like me or deeper complexions to provide a beautiful product for them. I think at the time, I found myself being pitched to work with other brands as a creator to showcase other beauty products for other companies. But nothing really suited people who were; if you were even a little bit darker than I am, I wouldn't have been able to reach you with the content or the products offered to me to showcase on my channel. And so it was really important to me that I would be one of those people who would be able to share products with women who looked like me, who looked like my mom. Who was actually really, really much darker than I am, I should say. So that I had more of an opportunity to showcase products for women of color. So that was why I wanted to continue in the direction of beauty as it pertains to makeup.

Super interesting, and I've heard that story so many times that social media has really democratized the ability to find people that are just like you, right? Or like, or find people, you know, if you go into a drug store, or you go into a department store. You know, often it's hard to find products that connect with you. I mean, April has said that before. You know, with her, with an Asian complexion, like it's somewhat tricky. Not just for makeup, but other products, right?

Yeah, that's right.

Right, right, exactly. And so like one thing that is very interesting to me about your messaging and your marketing for the brand is that it seems like you were very intentional about the audience you chose, right? Like you say in some kind of like your marketing company, like bold people, who are unapologetic, you know? Is that kinda how you sought to differentiate yourself from other beauty brands out there? Or how did you think about messaging?

For sure, I wanted the messaging to be as authentic to who I am as possible so that it wouldn't be a job, really. For me, it would just be a continuation of a hobby that I really really loved that was actually profitable. So for me, before leaving my job as a teacher, who was the highlight of my life, I found that I really didn't ever feel like I was going to work, right? I really love kids. I love working with the kids. I loved working with the parents for the most part. And so I really, really enjoyed my job and becoming a mom, and the school that I taught at closed. So for me, when I was teaching to go into a different area and make that transition, whatever I have done over these 10 years, this journey for me had to have been something that continued to bring me the kind of joy that continued to teaching did. And so, for me, I am very outspoken. I am very unapologetic. I am very bold with my messaging. I am very intentional about what I share, how I share it, and, you know, the message to whom I'm trying to share it. And so, yeah, I really wanted it to be something that, because one thing that has happened over the last 10 years is that there are other black-owned beauty brands now, right?

Many other entrepreneurs have launched notable companies like Fenty, and you know some really unique black-owned brands. And so, how could I stand out? What things could I do to complement what I offer but also speak to a specific audience? The Crayon Case is another one that I'm really, I'm really inspired by. She's another black-owned business owner, and she's very bold with her messaging as well. And it just inspired me and let me know that it is okay to go in a direction that may not be as normal as everyone else. But one of the most important things for me with the Brand Builder Studio was that I wanted it to still look like a corporation. Like I didn't want it to look like it was something that is being, you know, processed from my home, you know?

Uh-huh.

I wanted to make sure that there was an experience, and it's only been a little over a month since we officially launched. Still, we're definitely working even now to continue the experience of luxury as a black-owned business as well. So I definitely wanted to make sure that it spoke to a particular demographic. The messaging was specific to a certain demographic, not just black women, to be honest with you, Justin. I'm really excited to work with all women.

Yeah.

But I'm very proud to be a black woman who can do this. So it's just been an exciting journey so far for me.

Absolutely, and so I mean, given that, you know the launch is still relatively fresh in your mind. I was wondering if you could talk a bit about some of the obstacles that you faced in the process of launching the brand, right? Right, like you know, if you had to think back on everything that you've had to go through to get to this moment. Are there some things that stick out in your mind of challenging circumstances that you had to overcome?

Oh, man. So, to be honest, there have been more obstacles thus far than anything. I handle it all myself. So I do the branding, the graphic design, the marketing. I did the website, the logo, just everything that has encompassed the Brand Builder Studio up until this point has been me. My husband said he would help me with packaging orders which have been excellent as well. But even with the shipping and processing of all the orders and just the whole thing has been me. And I would say that one of the biggest obstacles I had was like you said initially, I just didn't know where to start. As a beauty blogger, I've seen other creators, you know, as the faces of brands, you know? You know, they sold lip gloss or some type of products, but they just took the pictures, you know? Someone else handled all the marketing and all this stuff. And so, for me, one of the reasons that actually why I didn't think I could do this was because I didn't know I would be able to figure it all out.

And on top of everything, I actually am a lupus survivor. I have lupus. And so my health has just been, I would say, the biggest obstacle because I'm exhausted a lot. It's just been really, really physically taxing because I would be up all night. You know, I'm a full-time mom during the day. I'm a wife for a few hours if I can. And then I go into this mode of building this brand, you know, really trying to work hard to build a business. And so I would be up to four, five o'clock in the morning. Several nights at the beginning of this year up until July or August, it was just a really long journey of, you know, researching. I wanted to also make sure that I was offering unique products. And so I did a lot of market research to just see what other companies had out there, what was available to people at the time. And I also wanted to make sure that I created a business model that was sustainable for me. And the products that I chose for our initial launch and then actually creating other product lines to continue to further the brand. So there were just so many learning curves, but I pride myself on being a DIY-er like I love to DIY. I love to figure it out. Because it affords me the experience and the opportunity to apply my knowledge to another idea that I have in the future. So I was doing graphic design for a long time for a couple of small businesses. And I used that information and that experience to do graphic design for myself. I've worked, I actually have a consultancy. I work with other creatives and help them with their branding and marketing as well. So I use all of my knowledge to compacting, you know, come into play for the Brand Builder Studio as well.

Right, so how did you find the manufacturer to begin with? Like how, like I think a lot of creators ask like, okay, they understand like Teespring and all those things with the vendors will they'll do fulfillment for you and stuff like that. But how, when you try to make a custom product, like where, how do you look? Do you google it? Like what, like, what do you do?

So, luckily for me, I had a couple of friends in high places who gave me some excellent advice and gave me some information about some labs. Back in 2000, I want to say maybe 13 or 2012, a good friend of mine gave me some information about a lab. And she told me, you know how to get in touch with some people. Unfortunately, the people she gave me to contact were no longer with the company. So I kinda had to; Google became my friend. I wanted to make sure that the products that we offer with the Brand Builder Studio are paraben-free. Like I said, with lupus, my skincare is a huge part of how I stay healthy. You know, just making sure that I don't put any toxic products on my skin. And so if it's not good enough for me, then it's not good enough for anyone else. And so I started to really research companies and find manufacturers and labs who specialized in hypoallergenic products-

Interesting.

Toxic-free products. Just, I really, I felt like I was in school, to be honest. I became a student of the game, you know? Just really looking around and trying to maximize my time because I knew that this was something that I wanted to launch at a specific time. And I'm not sure if I, I'm not sure if you saw the post, but I shared that I wanted it to launch in October. And the very first launch for our company was the Pinky Winky Lux collection which pink is the color for breast cancer awareness month. October is the 10th month and the 10th year of my journey as a brand builder. And so, I wanted to make sure that as I was doing all this research, I could have everything done in July. July was the time when I wanted things to be, you know, starting to get processed and, you know, put together so that August and September I could really finalize things and fine-tune it. And so that I would be able to launch on time in October. And so yeah, I just-

You really held yourself to that, to that deadline? 

Yeah, my friend, I took a course over the beginning of this year, and they had a personality quiz, and I was labeled a taskmaster. It says that like, I make like lists and like check things off. And it's true. I think it's the teacher in me. I believe it when I have talked about it. Like once a teacher, always a teacher.

Yeah.

Just the skills you learn to carry on with you long after you're teaching, you know, 10 years over, so yeah.

I wanted to ask you about the logistics of getting a company to work with you, right? Because I know many of these companies have minimum order requirements or a specific volume limit or something, and I've heard many creators say that that's a capital constraint, right? Like they don't have the money to invest in a thousand-piece run or something like that. And so I know some creators will do, like, they'll like pre-launch it or something, right? So they'll tell their creators like, oh or they'll say to their followers like, oh, you know I'm going to be launching this thing. Will you support me? It's kind of like a Kickstarter type thing, like a pre-launch type thing. So did you ever consider doing that or like, how did you, how did you make it happen for the initial runs?

So I didn't consider doing a pre-launch because I wanted to have tangible products for promo and marketing. And then, I also wanted to make sure that before I sold it and put my name behind it, these products were what I wanted them to be. And then I didn't wanna have I didn't wanna run the chance of having there be some type of backup or, you know, some type of holdup with processing or shipping taking forever and things of that nature. So one of the things that I did when I was starting the journey of launching was I only. One of the first questions I would ask when I reach out to different companies was, do I have to provide or fulfill minimum quantity orders?  I made sure that the quantities required for them to even process an order were within my budget. And then actually start out really small. So one of the biggest tips that I would give people is to require or request a sample order. And get a couple of samples of just like prototypes they offer for products that you may be interested in. And then what I did with the sample order was I used the samples to do a lot of my promo before I even launched.

Interesting.

So I knew what I was using. I knew what the products looked like. A lot of customization came after that, but I definitely used a lot of my samples to really start to get the message out. And get the word out that I was gonna be doing something. And once I knew how much I liked the products, I knew what labs I wanted to go back to and say, Hey, can we do this? Can we fulfill an order, you know, within this number for this amount, for this date? Because you have to stay on them with dates to make sure that they're processing them in time. Make sure that your logos and branding are printed the way that you want them to be. Again, one of the things that really helped even the labs I worked with and me, the manufacturers, would tell me, like, "We're so glad." Like they loved that I could send what I wanted my prototypes to look like in graphic design to them. Because they'll just do anything and send it to you and bill you, and it is what it is. And so, yeah, I was able to, you know, take pictures of the samples, use the images that I took of the samples to start creating logos that I would use. I would upload the logos images onto my computer and then create logos that I wanted to show on top of the prototypes. And then send those pictures to the labs so that they could see what I wanted. That was really invaluable. And a lot of times, with the labs, they will send you many samples at a really affordable price. So that you can really play around with the products that you're interested in. And then, from there, decide whether or not it's something that you wanna continue with.

Super interesting. And so you mentioned, you know, you did some initial promo with those samples that you got. I wondered if you could talk a bit about how you even approach selling something to your followers, right? I mean, that's something I hear a lot: creators are just scared, right? Like that they're nervous about creating something that they sell because they've only ever made content for free, right? And so like, what is your mentality there? How did you get past that? Or like, what are your thoughts on that? 

Well, Justin, one of the things that I really have done with my platforms on social media is I've used them to offer things a lot. I've made a lot of different offers before launching the Brand Builder Studio. As I said, I have a consultancy. And so, I worked with many other female content creators and showed them how to up-level their content. And so I sold that service. It was actually an actual six-week course. I sold that, I've done like small, you know, product-based businesses, and I've made offers with that. And so I don't. I don't really have a problem selling things, you know? Like it's not something I'm uncomfortable with. The most important thing for me in selling is to make sure that what I'm offering is what it is. You know, I don't mind offering a product or selling something, but it has to be legit. It has to be excellent, or I won't stand behind it at all. And I've really learned the value of gaining the trust of my audience. I'm very, very relatable with them. They send me DMs, I DM them back. And I'm really, really intentional about creating an authentic relationship with the people who follow me and are part of my community. And so when this came about, many of them have been with me since I first started.

Wow.

My journey on social media. And it was pretty much a no-brainer. A lot of them have been asking for me to get back into the beauty realm. A lot of them had suggested that I start a beauty line. And so when I finally did, it was like a breath of fresh air to a lot of them. And that's their words, not mine. They told me, finally, what was taking you so long? They were really, really happy that I had taken the leap and actually launched the company. So honestly, within the first week, we practically sold out of all of our products.

That's incredible.

I think it's this week is our seventh week officially in business. On Saturday it will be seven weeks. And I haven't really been promoting because Black Friday will probably be like a couple hours, and I'll be completely sold out of everything. So, when you pay attention to your audience, if you are a content creator, trying to grow and trying to develop a brand and produce a community, one of the most important things that I always suggest is to pay attention to your audience. As much as it is essential to share, you know what you're passionate about, it's also vital to really cultivate and build upon an audience that actually appreciates things in you. Often, for me, my audience is those who would inspire me to keep going. They spoke life into me. They encouraged me when I was ready to, you know, hang up the camera and put away the laptop, you know? And really paying attention to what they said. And then finally finding the time to reaffirm it within me is how I found it has brought me the most success. Because they showed me what I got to the table long ago was the thing that really stuck. It was the thing that helped me to grow my audience. And like I said, life has its ups and downs. I've had some family things happen. I was a caregiver to my mom with lung disease. I got married, we relocated to Texas. Like so many things happened. But my audience has really been the driving force behind the Brand Builder Studio. And that was the reason why I wanted to name it that. Because I wanted it to be something relatable to all people, all women. Even if you're a brand builder and don't actually do content online, you'll still be influenced. You can still influence other people in your day-to-day life. And so, the Brand Builder Studio was just a place where I wanted to offer products to anyone who considers themselves a brand builder or not. And so it's just been one of those things that I'm really grateful to my audience for inspiring me and encouraging me. And most importantly, supporting this journey that I've been on for so long.

Super inspirational, Bre. Well, thank you so much for joining us today. How can people follow you or check out the Brand Builder Studio? That kinda thing?

Okay, so you can definitely follow me. My personal page is @xoBreKnowsBest. And then, you can definitely follow the Brand Builder Studio. We're on Twitter, we're on Instagram, and we also have a Facebook account, and it's @thebrandbuilderstudio, everywhere.

So make sure to check out all of Bre's stuff. Thanks again, Bre.

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Justin Moore | Creator Wizard